Paramount // 1996 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // May 17th, 2007
Expect the impossible.
1996 seemed so long ago, but yes, Hollywood had been "reimagining" decades-old television shows for a few years at that point, and Mission: Impossible seemed to be a perfect candidate for a two-hour film. It was released to gangbuster box office receipts and was a whirlwind of action, drama and suspense, directed by Brian De Palma (Carlito's Way), who knows those genres well. So now that the M:I films have been released as separate next-generation titles, is it worth rebuying?
From Bruce Geller's show, David Koepp (Panic Room) wrote a story whose focus is Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, War of the Worlds), a longtime veteran of the Impossible Missions Force, whose purpose is to employ covert operations and tactics as a means of making sure future threats do not reach American shores. The supervisor of his team is Jim Phelps (Jon Voight, Heat), whose wife Claire (Emmanuelle Beart, Nelly and Mr. Arnaud) is a member of Ethan's team. During an operation in the Eastern Bloc, things go drastically wrong, and Ethan is blamed for the failures and is accused of being disloyal to the Agency and the country. From there, Ethan goes on a mission to find the truth, while a list of the real identities of all secret American agents hangs in the balance.
It was certainly interesting to see what De Palma's take on a big budget thriller would be, and at least he doesn't cave too much to more profitable means, as there's actually a bit of his touch to the film. There are a few quieter sequences where it occurs, but the prime example of this is when Hunt meets Kittredge (Henry Czerny, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) after his operation has gone bad. Both characters are shot from the ground with tight shots on their faces, to convey the image of cloak and dagger operations. They're both whispering, albeit elevated at times, but nobody else would really hear or comprehend what they were saying. That's my point.
In recent months, I've watched a trilogy of Mission: Impossible films, albeit in reverse order. Each has been recognizable in its own way. The third one was the most emotional of the trio, while the second one was just fun to watch from an action standpoint. The first one helps the viewer unfamiliar with the exploits of Martin Landau and Greg Morris in the '60s a chance to see what they missed during all that time. I mean, the representative casting is even down to a science! In all seriousness though, De Palma lets the action accentuate the suspenseful sequences with the exception of maybe that final little battle, but it still winds up being an entertaining film, effectively setting the foundations for the sequels that followed it.
Not having seen this film in a while and not having it in my collection, the 1080p MPEG-2 encoded transfer isn't worth writing home about for the next generation disc collector. Of the three M:I films, the image of this one possesses the least amount of consistent depth and detail. Nevertheless, I'll go out on a limb here and say that it's a marginal upgrade from the standard definition version. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is OK, but doesn't bring a lot of immersion or low end fidelity from a sound perspective. For those who are format neutral, a word of note: The HD DVD version has a Dolby Digital-Plus soundtrack, so exercise some caution.
This is the third time that Mission: Impossible arrives to disc. The first was a barebones release from Paramount, while the second one was released with some extra material shortly before the third came to theaters in 2006. The extras from this disc are the exact same from last year's release. The big one is "Mission: Remarkable," which supposedly chronicles the franchise from television to movies, but it's only 10 minutes in length. It says that it covers 40 years of the franchise, but, pardon the pun, it's not possible in 10 minutes and barely gives any attention to the television show. Following that are two separate looks at the stunts in the film, one on the film itself, and another covering that train sequence. There's also an interesting "What If?" hypothesis which is really a look at some clandestine activities that the CIA has done through the years. Following that is a guided tour at the International Spy Museum in Washington, along with some fictitious dossiers for the IMF agents. The "Excellence in Film" and "Generation: Cruise" clips are highlight reels of Cruise's career up to 2005, and they can also be found on the MI:2 disc. There are a stills gallery, a section of two trailers and nine TV spots that complete this disc.
Unlike Judge Joel Pearce, I think the intro for the film was (and remains) fine, if for nothing else because De Palma decides to retain the integrity of the opening to some degree. I'm not sure if the old show interspersed episode-specific clips with the opening or some generic tense close ups and fighting scenes, but I've never thought it was a big deal. What was a problem to me then and now was when the first uses of the now-famed masks of disguise were employed. If you had a problem with it in the second M:I film, you damn near had a stroke when it came to the leaps of logic that were taken in this one.
Unfortunately, the extra material on this disc is scant, which appears to be the case with most other De Palma releases. From an audio/video point of view, it's OK, but until there's some sort of definitive version with a solid soundtrack, you might want to hold off on this one, assuming you already have the standard definition version.
Paramount is found guilty for the shoddy treatment they have given a popular film not only once, but on two separate occasions. They are sentenced to placing Bibles in hotel rooms at the Drake Hotel in Chicago until they admit to their sins.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Mission: Remarkable -- Retrospective
* Production Featurettes
* Mission: International Spy Museums
* Excellence in Film and Generation: Cruise -- Tribute Montage
* Stills Gallery
* Trailer and Teasers
* Original DVD Verdict Review
* Official Site